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Ian Froeb's STL 100 2016 cover

It’s always a challenge to raise the bar on a fan favorite. But this Sunday, Ian Froeb’s STL 100: The Best Restaurants in St. Louis Right Now section accomplishes that feat.

The annual restaurant rankings by Froeb, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s dining critic, is bigger and better.

And his favorites will be available to readers year-round on www.stltoday.com and our GO! Magazine app. It also serves as the centerpiece for a star-studded event March 31 featuring some of the biggest names on the St. Louis dining scene.

Last March, Go! Magazine and the Post-Dispatch launched the inaugural edition of Ian Froeb’s STL 100 to celebrate the many great restaurants in and around our region.

To assemble that first list, Froeb had a marathon of eating. He spent months making visits to old and new restaurants, carefully narrowing the field to 100 — no easy task in an eclectic food town.

For the 2016 edition, he says the project proved to be even more daunting. He had to make a lot of tough choices, changing old rankings, adding new restaurants and eliminating others.

“I thought the second edition of the STL 100 would be easier to put together than the first,” said Froeb, the Post-Dispatch dining critic since June 2013. “I was wrong. The past year or so has seen many excellent new restaurants open, while few of last year’s 100 gave me any clear reason to remove them. In total, I chose 27 new (or newly revisited) restaurants — surely a sign of a dining scene that continues to grow, evolve and thrive.”

Froeb’s guide, a 44-page full-color section in Sunday’s Post-Dispatch, ranks the top 25 restaurants; the next 75 are listed alphabetically. The interactive version (www.stltoday.com/stl100) showcases each spot along with wonderful color photos of the dishes.

Users can sort the restaurants by cuisine, price range and nearby spots, an especially handy tool for mobile users. If you’re browsing the list on your phone, save it as an icon on your home screen or access it through Go! Magazine’s free app.

The Froeb rankings are so good that we’re throwing a big party: the STL 100 Great Taste, from 6 to 10 p.m. March 31. The event will include more than 40 of the restaurants from Froeb’s list, which will offer special tastings at Neo on Locust, 2801 Locust Street in downtown St. Louis.

Partygoers will enjoy unlimited samples from Bogart’s Smokehouse, Mai Lee, Pastaria, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., Publico, Cleveland-Heath and dozens more. Tickets are $25 at stltoday.com/greattaste ($30 at the door), and a portion of proceeds will benefit the St. Louis Public Library.

“A lot of talented people spent countless hours producing this year’s guide, and we’re excited for readers to finally have it in their hands,” said Go! Magazine editor Gabe Hartwig.

“The new STL 100 Great Taste event is another way to experience the diversity of Ian’s list — from fun, everyday restaurants to spots that may be once-a-year splurges,” he said.

We hope you find great value and enjoyment when reading Ian’s STL 100. Keep it handy and seek it out on your mobile devices. It will help you through those tough dinnertime decisions, whether you are in a dining rut or entertaining out-of-town guests.

And we hope to see you mingling with St. Louis’ dining glitterati at the Great Taste event, a rare chance to raise our glasses and salute the best restaurants in St. Louis.